Maybe it is the nomenclature syndrome (the uncanny temptation and tendency by public officials to re-name or re-brand policies or programmes anytime a new team gets appointed or nominated) that has caught up with officials of the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation, else why has the Nigeria Image Project metamorphosed into the Heart of Africa Project? Does Nigeria lie in the heart of Africa?
I am sure it is also not due to lack of imagination, because Alder Consulting, the project consultants have a lot up their creative skills to know that recommending the new name for the Nigeria image project, will obviously be a dumb sell.
It beats one’s imagination how those involved with the project arrived at the new name for the image project, knowing that the phrase has always been used to refer to countries such as Malawi and Congo which are buried deep in the heart of Africa. Even Libya and Kenya lay claims to the phrase as well. A simple internet search would have revealed all these facts, so why get in among the crowd? Why waste efforts and resources trying to position Nigeria as the Heart of Africa in the minds of the global community, when we could have easily leveraged on our already recognisable brand name (Nigeria) and phrase (the giant of Africa).
Countries like Uganda, not in any way comparable to Nigeria in terms of human and material resources, seem to be executing a better themed and more organised re-branding programme with their Gifted by Nature campaign. For sure the country’s image advertisement currently showing on CNN far outclasses by a million poles that of Nigeria which featured Obasanjo in the unceremonial testimonial role and was aired sometime last year on CNN. South Africa also provides another good example of how countries should package themselves, as evidenced by their Proudly South African image programme.
Unless the Information and National Orientation ministry’s geographers have different techniques of reading the map, but if it is the same map of Africa which we all know that has given them the impression that Nigeria is indeed at the heart of Africa, then they may have goofed.
In the long term, it is in Nigeria’s interest for the project coordinators to rebrand the project once more, and to stop making further mis-representations in their several communication efforts by calling Nigeria the heart of Africa, because it is not.
Leveraging on Nigeria’s age – old and self styled Giant of Africa adulation may even be more effective and desirable, although such chest-thumping claims may no longer be realistic in today’s Africa, where South Africa has taken over the economic leadership of the continent, but still Nigeria can easily put together a long list of firsts and attributes, that will at least justify to some extent its claim of being the Giant of Africa.
Still on the image project, I just think that the work of the project coordinators is becoming increasingly difficult? In public relations terms, the concept of ‘whitewashing’ exists, where with the help of ‘spin doctors’, an unpleasant situation is projected in a positive light, but such techniques and strategies can only work in the short term, I am sure that the Nigerian government is not after short-term solutions, and so with regards to the image project, the Nigerian government through its various agencies, parastatals and institutions may just be its own worst enemy. This is because they are the ones undermining the achievement of the objectives of the project, and not just the 419ers, social commentators and Nigerians in the diaspora as the government would have Nigerians believe.
For any gains made by a positive step and action on the part of the government, there are at least four backward steps being recorded as a result of the actions of other government officials.
Thus it is difficult to actually score Nigeria high in the international community as a result of the efforts of change agents and reformers such as Mrs Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Oby Ezekwesili and Charles Soludo, because their efforts are blighted by the ineptitude of other government officials, the likes of Prof. Babalola Borishade in the Aviation ministry and the several state governors and Chairmen of local government. Recently the state department in America issued one of their regular travel warnings but this time, they cautioned American and EU citizens about flying Nigerian owned/operated airlines. Translated more succinctly, the message simply is telling those who still want to brave flying Nigeria’s airlines that they are ‘on their own’. Such reprisals and indictments in the international community obviously set the hands of the clock backwards for the image project coordinators.
Should the Nigeria image project be discontinued? Not really, but in order to benefit from the 600 million naira budgeted for the project, the Nigerian government should involve the states and local governments as well, so that they will all be singing from the same hymn book. This is because Nigeria does not only start and end in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos, usually Nigeria’s ‘poster towns’ ; there are also other towns where the potential investors and tourists can visit and set up businesses, but which are currently not attractive b
ecause of a combination of factors (poor infrastructural development, crime, bureaucracy etc).
Tourism is high on the agenda of the Nigeria image project, but without guarantees of security of lives and property, it may still be a while before we start seeing white bodies lining our beaches (I’m not talking about the Caucasian residents), particularly in places like Lagos, where moving around at night is like going on a suicidal mission.
Many Nigerians are hungry, and angry, they rob, steal and kill in desperation because they have no jobs. To reverse the trend, the government should open up the economy further, by investing massively in roads, water, housing, electricity; local businesses can then pick it up from there (inward direct investments), and maybe then, the foreign investors will take the cue.